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Technology for Small Business: 5 Big Takeaways from NAWBO Minnesota

Kristin Dennewill April 3, 2014

technology for small business - minneapolis

I recently attended a NAWBO MN (National Association of Women Business Owners MN) event called “Leveraging Technology to Organize and Grow Your Business” at the Best Buy headquarters in Richfield, Minnesota. It was a panel discussion with senior managers from Best Buy and Clockwork Active Media.

As a marketing agency, technology is an instrumental element of our business. We use it for operations and we rely on it to help us make important marketing decisions so we know where to spend our money (and our clients’ money!) in order to get the best ROI. Needless to say, I was really looking forward to hearing from the experts and learning how we can use it even more.

While the panel discussion focused on using technology to grow business in general, I saw five core takeaways for technology for small business.

1. Technology Trends

Google Apps for Business

The session opened with Heath Walker, Sales Director from Best Buy, sharing some of the trends in technology that he’s seeing right now. For starters, Google is playing a bigger and more important role in business with all of the different applications it has developed.

Collaboration

Many of Google's business have contributed to another trend, which is Collaboration. Tools such as Google Docs, Google Calendar, Hangouts and others make it much easier for teams to collaborate and share information.

Sharing Information

And speaking of Sharing Information, that is another trend which companies need to embrace and understand how to best leverage. With online review sites, such as Yelp, or Google Pages, people like to give their opinion and many others use this information as research to aid in their purchasing decisions.

Wearable Devices

The next trend Walker mentioned was Wearable Devices, which include things like Google Glass or watches which double as cell phones.

Mobile Selling

How customers are served is changing and Mobile Selling is going to be key to serving your customers fast so they don’t go elsewhere. Customers don’t want to stand in a line and wait to pay, so businesses whose salespeople can collect payment on a mobile device while serving the customer are going to have happier customers.

2. Social Media

Social Media is always a hot topic and could have been a session by itself, but the important point here is that the human connection is very important. Even if your business is B2B, when people read your things online, they are reading it alone and you are sharing information with a human, so the content needs to recognize that.

Another good point was raised about the power of using employees as evangelists for your business. This does not come without risk however, and you can minimize your risk by hiring smart people who share your company’s values. By coincidence, we wrote a blog post about this very topic last month if you want to know more, Social Media Training for Employees: from Risk Management to Brand Advocacy.

3. Customer Segmentation

There are many different ways to stay connected with your customers: email newsletters, text messages, and social media to name a few. Smart businesses will be using a combination of these platforms to communicate, but also keeping track of each customer’s preferences so you know who to communicate with on which platform. Different strokes for different folks. Surveys are a good way to get feedback from your customers and know what they think.

4. Millennials

With so many baby-boomers now in retirement, the millennial generation has become 20% of the consumer base. Colleen Dunn, the CIO at Best Buy, shared with us some interesting facts about these young adults. For starters, they do a lot of research before they purchase something, both online and amongst their friends, but when they’re ready to pull the trigger, they prefer to go into a physical store to buy.

Millennials also like to participate and be asked their opinion. This is probably why Crowdsourcing is popular with this generation, and can be a brilliant facet of a business. Colleen talked about the trendsetting T-shirt company in this space, Threadless. They crowdsource designs by holding monthly contests for new designs, and each month a winner is chosen. The “prize” is having your design printed on their t-shirts which are sold all over the world.

5. Key Technology Questions

Data Security

Given the recent data breach at Target, the question of customer security came up and the importance of knowing that your business is safeguarding its customers' data. If your businesses accepts credit cards, it’s your responsibility to check with your service provider to ensure that your customers’ information can’t be “stolen” while in the process of being used. It’s worth paying a bit more of a commission to a provider who can guarantee that their application is safe.

If you really want to be safe, your business can become “PCI compliant” (PCI stands for Payment Card Industry) which ensures that merchants who process, store or transmit credit card information have a secure environment.

The key takeaway was that you, the business owner, are ultimately responsible and need to do whatever is necessary to make sure your data is secure.

Should Your Business Have an App?

Many businesses are feeling pressure to have their own app, but is it really necessary? The panel recommended that before you create an app, you have a very good understanding of your audience, and how the app will be useful to that audience. Another good question to ask is how will you monetize that app. If you are going to create an app, you want to do it right, and you normally get what you pay for. So if it makes sense, then do it, but be sure to allocate the right budget to make it worthwhile.

CONCLUSION

Even though I feel like I am pretty current on the state of technology through using it in our own business and constantly reading about the topic, this was a great session to learn more about the “big picture” of technology, and how it’s affecting all of us on a personal level, as well as in business.

One further way to grow your business through technology, which wasn’t discussed at the event, but we feel is important is Marketing Automation. This allows you to be working on lead generation 24/7 and gives you amazingly detailed feedback as to where your traffic and leads are coming from, what is “sticking” with them, and makes it far easier to segment your customers.

Photo: John Ward via Flickr; modified

If you want to learn more on how your business can better leverage technology through social media, customer segmentation, attracting a new millennial audience, or marketing automation, you can contact us at info@denamico.com or give us a call at 612.859.6317.